SAN DIEGO — On the way to a meet at Carlsbad High School on Thursday, Fallbrook girls' track Coach Marc Steffler passed around photographs of his 15-member varsity team from last season.
"They asked me where the rest of the team was," Steffler said. "I told them they were looking at the team."
The Warriors did not exactly overwhelm anyone with the size of their roster--or with their success--the last two seasons. In 1983, the Warriors had 29 girls on the varsity and junior varsity teams combined, and an 0-7 record. In 1984, they were 0-8 with 26 girls on the team.
"We would've been 0-8 in 1983," Steffler said. "But we had a rainout. That's a fact. Escondido would've cleaned us out."
But things have changed this year at Fallbrook. The Warriors had 76 girls participate in the meet against Carlsbad, and they did something they hadn't done since Steffler became coach in 1983. They won, 78-38.
"It was really neat to win, we were ecstatic," said Kelly Wood, Fallbrook's top triple jumper. "We kind of knew we were going to win before the meet started.
"When we won the mile relay (the meet's final event), we really felt unified as a team."
Wood won the triple jump Thursday (30-9) and finished second in the long jump (13-10). Wood, a junior, had experienced Fallbrook's 15 losses over her first two seasons.
"It was discouraging to lose all the time," Wood said. "It's encouraging now because there's much more of a chance to win this year."
The turnaround by the Warriors is similar to that of the Fallbrook boys team last season. After finishing 0-7 in 1983, the boys went 5-2 last season. There are 70 boys on the team this season and they also beat Carlsbad in their Palomar League opener Thursday.
"Last year's success by the boys created support in track across the school," Steffler said. "The boys success has carried over."
The big reason for the turnaround on both the girls and boys team is the greater number of athletes out for the teams. Steffler said the lack of success in the past was largely because he did not have enough girls to cover all events.
"We used to watch other teams run races uncontested against us," Steffler said. "Now, I have trouble getting all my girls in the meet."
Steffler has 38 sprinters this year, and the number of lanes limits the number of sprinters he can use in a meet.
But that's a good problem to have. One that is not so good is the Warriors' lack of experience. Only 6 of the 76 girls on the team are seniors.
Steffler and boys Coach Tim Oder make no attempts to shield their enthusiasm for coaching track. And both have done admirable jobs in increasing the number of team members, despite limited success by their team.
Steffler said one of the things he stresses most is having fun.
"Even when we were losing, we were a small, tight-knit group," Wood said. "We were like a family."
That small family has developed into a large one that has learned the importance of hard work. The Warriors have been frequent visitors to the numerous track clinics around the county and are no longer opposed to attending optional Saturday practices.
"We've had three Saturday practices, which are optional, and had turnouts of 93, 90 and 75 (boys and girls combined)," Steffler said. "We tried to have them in the past, but had small turnouts.
"The girls now understand that if they're going to improve, they have to do something extra."
The turnout alone is something extra over last season.